The newest iteration of the Local 600 Mentorship Program is being labeled as a “pilot program.” But pilots are known for taking flight, and that outcome is every bit what Local 600 staff and committee members are hoping will happen with this new program in its efforts to enrich members’ careers and increase union solidarity.
“Unions are at their very best when they develop myriad ways to support working families. Mentorship can make the difference in turning jobs into careers and letting members know they are part of a larger community that wants them to succeed,” said Local 600 National Executive Director Rebecca Rhine. “We hope this pilot program is the beginning of creating strong bonds between mentors and mentees and another connection between members and their union.”
The new program, which launched this week, is the result of months of collaboration between Local 600 administrators, staff members and Sophia Jimenez, a consultant brought aboard specifically to guide the endeavor. Kudos also to Jennifer Gilroy, Josh Hancher, Mark LaBonge, Ella Lubienski and Hollis Meminger: the dedicated volunteers who make up the Pilot Mentorship Committee along with Local 600 Assistant Western Region Director Xiomara Comrie.
In past years, Local 600 has conducted three previous mentorship program cycles. Membership has consistently indicated that they view mentorship as a union priority, but guild officials concluded that the program would need to be overhauled in order for it to flourish.
“I thought it needed a complete workover,” said Comrie. “It needed a revamp to keep it fresh for membership, and I think the team has done that.”
“I believe that the work that has produced this pilot program will ensure its success so it can be scaled up going forward and fill a need our members have repeatedly expressed their desire for,” agreed Local 600 National President John Lindley, ASC. “Mentorship brings members of all skill levels, backgrounds, and ages together for a shared purpose. It connects the past with the future and offers a transfer of knowledge and experience that benefits both the mentees and the mentors equally. It is the fundamental acknowledgment that unions are strongest when members find common ground to build a stronger local on.”
The sixth-month pilot program is open to all members in good standing. Although the mentorship program will be held digitally, mentors and mentees are matched regionally in an effort to strengthen the local connection. When they apply, mentees can indicate their preference for their mentor’s classification. After the pairs are established, mentor and mentees will attend a January 22 training session, after which the pairs are expected to meet twice a month for an hour. For this first round, program officials are hoping to sign up 45 pairs of mentors and mentees for a total of 90 members.
“We’re working on how we are looking for mentors, how we are matching people and what kinds of things need to be addressed,” said Gilroy, a Western Region Camera Assistant, “not only from a professional standpoint, but from a holistic standpoint.”
Within an organization as large and widespread as the motion picture and TV industry, help and advice from veteran artists can only be beneficial, said Lubienski, a 2nd AC based in Chicago. The daughter of university professors and also a co-chair of the Chicago Young Workers Committee, Lubienski has experience both as a mentor and in running mentorship programs, which made her a natural for the Pilot Mentorship Program Committee.
“I’ve always been interested in education and trying to teach the next generation,” Lubienski said. “This industry is all about connections, and the more connections we can help people forge or make stronger, the better off someone will be in the long term. And then also from a labor standpoint, the more connected the membership is, the stronger the union is as a whole. So, I think there are a lot of benefits to this.”
Where past versions of the Local 600 mentorship program allowed members to select their own mentor-mentee pairings, the new version will have a tighter structure and focus. Program organizers have revamped the application to include questions which are designed to facilitate strong and effective matches. Pairings will be based on criteria such as location, professional alignment (classifications the mentee is currently in or looking to reach) and shared interests.
“There are more questions that we ask to really get to know the applicants,” said Jimenez. “We ask questions around challenges that the mentees are experiencing and we’re asking the mentors whether they have experienced similar challenges. We ask them what they like doing both inside and outside of work to try to get to know the person a little bit more. We are looking at the whole picture in order to create those thoughtful matches.”
Jimenez has extensive experience in non-profit education and program design as well as mentorship expertise. Before moving into consulting, she spent nearly six years as a program coordinator and manager with Spark, an organization that matched students with working professionals.
“Sophia is a professional at this. This is what she does,” said Lubienski. “Having her expertise has been a big difference [from past Local 600 mentorship programs] and a huge asset for us.”
And as excited as she is to see the program launch and the pairs come together, Lubienski said she will be equally enthusiastic to see the pilot program reach its conclusion.
“I think I’m most excited for the end when we get to see the feedback and learn how to make it better for the next time,” Lubienski said.